Focus on Your Market

Photo shoot 1 017 (resized)Just because everyone uses the product you sell doesn’t mean everyone is your market. Most brands carry products that exist in multiple market price points, and the success of the brand is usually dependent on facilitating and cultivating THEIR specific marketplace. I know this may sound confusing, so I will use my firm as an example.

My brand, William Wilson, was developed to cater to business men and women (yes – I also make women’s clothing). Athletes and celebrities were never my target market; nor are they now. I was just blessed to acquire an impressive client portfolio that happens to include a significant amount of them. I honestly would rather have the person that works in Bank of America Corporate Center than the one that plays in Bank of America Stadium. He’s going to be a more “consistent” buyer because he has a constant NEED for my product. Plus given the average NFL career is 3.5 years, the numerical longevity factor is far more beneficial to me at the corporate center than the stadium. That explains one part of the market place. But that isn’t the focus of this post.

I’m talking about straying from your corporate brand strategy to chase every dollar. There is no way to maintain brand integrity and chase dollars. Especially in the luxury goods market. Again, this may make no sense in the abstract, so I will once again use my brand to explain.

I sell a premium luxury product, custom clothing. My brand is known for being some of the best looking, best constructed and highest quality in the country. That comes at a price. That doesn’t mean it has to be astronomical in price, but it shouldn’t break the bank of my target client either. With the exception of my Morehead Collection. My suits range from as low as $699 up to $40,000 (my Morehead Collection begins at $20,000 and is delivered by an armed guard in an armored truck). So as you can see, I cover a large price range. However, there is a segment of my market that will never buy from me. In the industry, we call them “Hotel Ballers“.

You may be asking yourself, “What is a “Hotel Baller“?” A hotel baller is the guy that wears  custom suits, but instead of purchasing suits from established firms in the area, they wait for the guy to come from Asia, sets up in a hotel room for a couple of days and sells out of the room. They usually offer a ridiculous cheap price to get clients in the door, knowing that the client’s ego and/or taste won’t allow him to buy the advertised product. The advertised packages are usually a bunch of fabrics that no one buys. The fabric IS available. So they aren’t lying. It’s just an old bait-n-switch (common in the car business. The more desirable fabrics are sold as upgrades, usually about $200 per upgrade level. Afterwards comes the up sell. Working button holes, fancy jacket linings, monograms and contrast stitching are always lucrative add-ons. Then they hit them with the shipping and tax. The tax is ALWAYS funny because they don’t even pay tax in the US usually because they live in Thailand and China. This is usually about $250-$500 of just free cash to them. I have a friend that sells this way, and he explained it to me. And he said “William, the crazy thing is, by the time the walk out of here, they usually pay more for my suit than they would have yours. And if it doesn’t fit right, they have to add the additional time and charges of shipping it halfway around the world. It could take months by the time we get it right; and you’re right here.”

Now some have asked why I don’t try that same thing locally and eliminate the competition. I explained to him, I have a brand to protect, a company to protect, and clients to protect. My clients trust me to provide them with the highest quality products on the market. My clients want a great suit, made with integrity and high quality, and they want a fair price. Not a cheap price, a FAIR price. My clients understand that quality costs. For me to be able to compete for that business, I would have to use lower quality fabrics, have them machine sewn in China, and machine sewn. These are all factors that would possibly increase my customer pool temporarily, but a client that is strictly shopping price isn’t concerned about quality and will leave for the next guy whose product is $50 less. Then you’ve lost your previous clients AND your new ones. Worse than that, you will have lost your brand credibility. That’s entrepreneurial SUICIDE.

You will never see Neiman Marcus competing with Wal-Mart (or Macys for that matter). You won’t see Mercedes and Lexus compete with Honda or Chevrolet. And you won’t see the William Wilson brand competing with hotel suit sellers. This is not to discredit them, or their customers. They do what they have to do. It’s not about them. It’s about the William Wilson brand, and my clients. My clients have placed trust in me. I owe it to them to be what I told them I was. They come to me because they feel I offer something they can’t get anywhere else. They come to me because they want the best from the best, and they feel like I fit that description. I appreciate my clients, and would never disrespect them by trying to flip-flop to chase a dollar. I don’t focus on my competition. I focus on my market. Where they go, the William Wilson brand goes.

 

God bless and dress well.

William Wilson, CEO

William Wilson Clothing

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Life’s Not a Marathon. It’s a Sprint.

Photo shoot 1 017 (resized)There’s an old saying “Life’s not a sprint. It’s a marathon.” That is patently false. Life is not a marathon. EXISTENCE is a marathon. All you have to do to exist is just not die. But life calls for action; attempts and achievements. Which is why life isn’t a marathon, it actually is a never -ending series of sprints.

You see, to run a sprint, you train for days, months, even years. You spend time in the weight room, practicing, and trying to beat the clock. It’s feels like you train forever. And for what? A 10 second event. Validation of all that preparation comes down to you being your best for 10 seconds. (or less)

Life is the same way. You work hard for days, weeks, months and sometimes years for that “one opportunity”. That one shot. That one chance. It may be a fortunate encounter in an elevator. It may an interview with a “Fortune 100” firm, it may be election night. For me, it may be an opportunity to land a major client.

When Calvin Richardson asked me to make his suit for the 2010 Grammy Awards, we had known each other for about 6 months. We ran into each other occasionally. We texted occasionally. We were acquaintances, but we weren’t  really friends. In fact when he called me, it was last minute. But he called because I had been preparing for the sprint. Every time he had seen me, I was in a suit. I represented my brand. Without me knowing, he was watching and gaining trust in me. When he called me, we had exactly a week to make it happen. We made it happen, and he was named “Best Dressed on the Red Carpet”. I had practiced for months, and I had a week to run my race. Not only on the race, I set a record.

I also failed at another race I didn’t realize I was racing in. I failed to prepare for the success. Having someone wear your clothing at the Grammy’s is a big deal for any designer; let alone for someone with only 17 months experience and no training. But to actually have your client be awarded for being the best dressed is a once in a lifetime opportunity. One that could have set me on a far more expedited path towards success. But I had no PR or media relations team. I had no media connections. I was a construction entrepreneur – turned self-taught clothing designer. I had just beat the odds and designed an award winning suit for the Grammy Awards; and NOBODY knew it. I missed a golden opportunity because that was a race I had not prepared for. I had a short window to capitalize on it, and I missed it. I wasn’t ready for the sprint, and when the starter’s gun went off, I couldn’t even get off of the blocks. I failed miserably.

Fortunately, God has seen fit to allow me to enter more races. And I’ve won  my fair share of them. But I still lose a lot of them too. I’m not the only person that prepares for these races. My peers do too. I have to prepare every second of every day to be prepared for that opportunity. Our races won’t be run on a track. They will be in life and in the workplace. Our starter’s pistol will be the opening of an elevator, a chance meeting in line at the market, or an unexpected phone call, text or email.

Opportunity doesn’t knock anymore. It sends out a mass email, and the first one that replies, and is ready to race, usually wins. Are you ready for your 10 seconds? If you’re not, trust me, someone else is. Until next time…..

God bless and dress well.

William Wilson, CEO

William Wilson Clothing

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